July 10, 2020

#2 The new rulebook

Planning ahead in any startup, on normal circumstances is… tricky. Nothing like a global pandemic to mix it up though – that’s been our 2020 so far.

After the usual Christmas/New Year’s  breather we had a pretty hectic season ahead of us with tradeshows – including ISPO, the biggest there is – and a fast paced fundraising roadshow across the US & Europe.

ISPO was wild: our first time at the big boy table, meters away from POC, Giro and other giants. We had sold out the season’s inventory by mid January and left ISPO with a handful of big deals across both continents. On that joyous note we continued the fundraising roadshow meeting VCs & other investors across Europe.

Little did we know 4 weeks after that we’d be literally escaping Madrid days before the airports were closed.

And just like that we went from meeting VCs to social distancing, reading exponential charts, contagion rates, adopting facemasks as a Tier 1 item in our wardrobe and applauding health workers at the designated time – the works.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

Charles Darwin

Very quickly airports and train stations became deserted – Fontana di Trevi was tourist-free, Yosemite had a record high bear population, Venice’s murky channels were no more and clear skies were seen above Shenzhen for the first time in years – all this while we were wondering how all this was going to affect us and our young company.

It also became apparent that some things were never coming back to ‘normal’. Much like airport security was never the same after 911, some of these new ways are here to stay.

Once you acknowledge that, a million questions rush in: will we go back into the exposure that is public transportation? Will dense population centers remain viable? Will facemasks be as common as sunglasses? Will ‘clean’ have the same meaning it did before?

This Pandemic made us see how vulnerable we are as a species and how important is the ability to adapt to fast changing rules.

Some are extra lucky and specially suited to thrive on this new rules: Zoom went from 10M users by year’s end 2019 to 200M users in March 2020, a 20x growth in 3 months. Netflix onboarded 16M new users in Q1 2020. Others, were not so lucky.

Nothing like a shake of the good ol’ tree to push people into change. And change comes in all kinds of flavors – that’s the beauty of mankind’s ingenuity. How else would you expect to see mom&pop shops mastering e-commerce or gyms doing 100% remote training sessions? It’s the ‘adapt to survive’ mechanism in action.

It’s scary sure, but it can also bring out the unexpected.

We were all given this new – halfwritten – rulebook. All there is left to do is pick it up and start playing.

The UNIT 1 Team